It happened again in San Diego! How is this possible? Another nursing in public incident that clearly violated California state law! An incident where a mother felt violated and shamed for nursing her baby in a public place. Another reason that reinforces the need for our San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force.
Here is Monique Golueke’s story, in her own words.
"It had been over a year since I had been to the gym and after what happened today, it's not likely I'll be returning, at least not to LA Fitness. I was so excited to attend a step class alongside one of my best gals.
On April 22, 2014, I reinstated my membership, paid the fees, and signed my boys up for the unlimited Kids Klub pass. Forty-five minutes into our class, I was notified that the boys had been crying and they weren't able to settle down. I swooped them up and took them directly to the ladies’ restroom/locker room where I washed both of their little hands. My 9-month old still seemed upset so I decided to nurse him while my toddler sat next to me and played with my phone. About five minutes later, I was approached by an LA Fitness employee. She told me that we needed to leave and that children were not allowed in the locker room.
I explained that I was nursing my son and she responded by saying that since I was new I probably didn't know the rules. She told me that an "elderly" woman had complained. Upon signing back up for the gym, there was no mention of the rules regarding the children.
When approached, I felt completely mortified, embarrassed and ashamed. I asked the employee where I should be nursing and she told me that there was a bathroom located in the kids club. Escorted out I felt embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated. Keep in mind that there are no signs posted stating that children are not allowed in the ladies’ restroom/locker room. My intention was to nurture and care for my children in a safe and friendly environment.
Escorted me out-what now?
They were more than happy to accept my money, then send me on my way.
I decided to call corporate and notify them of what happened and also have my account deactivated, I also asked them to refund my money. They were apologetic and handled the situation by having the manager from the Oceanside location contact me.
The manager called me and asked what had upset me: the fact that I was breastfeeding or the fact that the kids were in the locker room. I barely understood what he was asking. It was clear he didn't understand the legality of the situation. He told me that if I ever wanted to return to LA Fitness, I was welcome to nurse my baby in the restroom located in the Kids Klub.
I'm not positive but I think the only place to sit in the restroom that he was referring to is on the toilet.
At that point, I decided to again contact Corporate and inform them of the absurd conversation I had with the manager. They were apologetic and explained that if they needed to contact me they would. The conversation was strange and at this time I was heated and enraged. The woman didn't really say much."
After Monique shared her story in a private Facebook group, women from all over San Diego county banded together to organize a peaceful nurse-in in front of the Oceanside LA Fitness, showing their support for Monique as well as upholding a mother’s right to nurse in public.
Jill Greuling, Vice President of Operations for LA Fitness, issued this statement to 10News:
"We support the right of women to breastfeed in our facilities. When Mrs. Golueke voiced her intention to do so to one of our staff, she was offered space in the Kids Klub or, as an option, the separate restroom within the Kids Klub and a chair if she wanted more privacy. The staff member initially spoke to Mrs. Golueke to let her know that children are not allowed in the locker room area. This conversation occurred because another member observed her in the locker room with small children and reported it to us.”
Unfortunately, this statement is untrue. Monique was ONLY offered to breastfeed in the Kids Klub restroom and that is a significant problem. The CA law states that a women is allowed to breastfeed her child, anywhere she and her child are authorized to be. If children are in fact not allowed in the locker room at LA Fitness, then the law doesn’t protect Monique in that area of the gym. The issue is with the statement from the staff member who recommended that Monique breastfeed her baby in the Kids Klub bathroom. This is not an appropriate place to breastfeed a child. It is unsanitary and demeaning. It is important for all LA Fitness staff to know that this is not an appropriate recommendation and that, instead, mothers should be alternatively told that they may breastfeed in the lobby or in a comfortable spot in the Kids Klub.
At this time, the San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force is sending a letter to the LA Fitness Corporate office kindly requesting that they create a breastfeeding-supportive policy statement for their members, including a list of appropriate areas where mothers may breastfeed their children in their facilities (not including a bathroom.) We will also be offering language that they can share with their staff members on how to kindly respond to a mother who is breastfeeding her child in a place where her child is not authorized to be.
We will keep you posted!